Thursday, April 20, 2017


(Origanum dictamnus)
Native to the mountain Dicte on the island of Crete, Dittany of Crete gets both its botanical and common name from this mountain.  In ancient times, it was famous for its alleged property of expelling weapons imbedded in soldiers.  Apparently according to Virgil’s tale, the hero Aeneas was severely wounded and his mother, Venus, retrieved Dittany of Crete from the island which was applied to the wound, causing the arrow to drop out!!!  Although used medicinally in medieval times, today it is valued for its use as an indoor potted plant or as an ornamental plant in garden borders, hanging baskets, strawberry jars, mixed containers and rock gardens.  However, it is also known as the Herb of Fertility for all those grandma wanna-bes!!

Also called Hop Marjoram due to its unique fragrant pink or purplish pendant flower heads, the flowers begin as light green rosettes and become papery bracts which bloom from June to August.  Dittany of Crete flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds plus make excellent dried flowers. Other characteristics include soft woolly gray round leaves and trailing stems which can be trained on a topiary wire or trellis.  It grows to a height of about 6 inches and a spread of 16 inches and may be propagated by seed, stem cuttings or division.  Dittany of Crete requires well-drained soil, but is not fussy about soil type and will grow in full sun to part shade.

Used in some Mediterranean dishes as a substitute for oregano or marjoram, the leaves of Dittany of Crete have a pleasant aromatic flavor and are used for flavoring salads and vermouth.  Its beautiful flowering tops are still used to make herbal tea or tisane in Crete.  As a medicinal, it has been used externally as a poultice on wounds and bruises, to soothe pain and cure snake bites however, these uses appear to be obsolete in modern herbalism.  Another use for this member of the Oregano family is in incense blends or by itself.  The papery pink flower bracts which Dittany of Crete is best known for also make excellent dried flowers.

Dittany of Crete is drought tolerant
which makes it ideal for
xeriscaping in the garden
or as a low maintenance houseplant
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters
Psalm 24:1-2

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